The Rutgers Science Communication Initiative, co-founded in 2018 by (in alphabetical order) William Hallman (SEBS-Human Ecology), Mary Nucci (SEBS-Human Ecology) and Nicholas Ponzio (RBHS) seeks to address the pressing need for communicating science effectively to a range of audiences through teaching, research, training and outreach. The Initiative efforts for will enable participants to "learn to access and interpret science in the context of complex, real-world problems, judge the credibility of scientific claims based on both social and epistemic cues, and cultivate a lifelong involvement in science" (Feinstein, Allen & Jenkins, 2013).
The Initiative has the potential to change how we think about the role of science communication in the world today. Often considered the province of journalists or communicators, the Initiative recognizes that science communication is everyone's role—we need to be able to understand evidence, understand the scientific process and use this knowledge to change how we interact with the world around us. The Initiative must aim to change the way we think about science, scientists, evidence and our place in the world. Perhaps we can change the world by changing one mind at a time. By creating a network of science, art, and humanities stakeholders from across the University, the Initiative will build upon existing strengths and develop new affiliations to improve the science communication skills of students, faculty and staff which will in turn result in improved use of evidence for decision making, greater understanding of the scientific process, and establish Rutgers as a knowledge hub for public, private and government audiences.
The Science Communication Initiative had its first meetings in the Spring of 2019 where we brought together more than 50 colleagues from across the five campuses to identify issues and goals for the Initiative. We continue to outreach to additional faculty and staff as identified to expand this informal network, and have initiated the development of the Initiative website and social media presence. In this short time, we have noted new connections developing into discussions around new interdisciplinary science communication curricula and programs. We continue to new collaborations between SEBS, SC&I, SAS, RBHS, Mason-Gross that expand science communication from a focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) to a broader science-arts-humanities focus on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics).
By its nature, the Initiative is interdisciplinary and collaborative: we recognize that science communication is not the sole responsibility of scientists but needs to include humanities and arts. We also recognize that the term "science communication" is broad in nature and includes colleagues who focus broadly in science content areas and communication studies; colleagues who focus specifically in such areas as risk and health communication; and in areas as diverse as learning cognition, rhetorical and prose research, program development etc. We will continue to build upon the network of existing members to ensure that collaboration is across all the units of the University and offers the potential for interdisciplinary partnerships among faculty, staff and students that have an interest in pedagogy, research or outreach related to science communication.